Why Dick York Was Suddenly Replaced by Dick Sargent in ‘Bewitched’
For six seasons of the beloved show Bewitched, Dick York played Darrin Stephens, the husband of Samantha (Elizabeth Montgomery). Then suddenly, he was replaced by Dick Sargent, who played the role for the show’s final three seasons. The reason was even more sad than York being fired or wanting to leave the show.
While Darrin was always more of a side character as Samantha’s husband, he was essential in the plot of many episodes. Samantha’s mother Endora (Agnes Moorehead) disapproved of her marriage to a mortal and was always messing with him. Samantha would often have to fix things before he realized what happened, in hopes of remaining the perfect ’60s wife despite being a witch. For many years, it was the most popular sitcom on the air and fans were shocked when they realized that York had been replaced.
Before being cast in Bewitched, York filmed a movie called They Came to Cordura and sustained a serious back injury on set. He explained that during one scene, he was propelling a handcar with Gary Cooper. The director yelled ‘Cut!’ and a cast member grabbed the handle, causing York to suddenly lift more weight than he could handle and some of his back muscles tore, which unfortunately led him right into an addiction to painkillers.
As the years went on, his condition worsened and became a degenerative spinal condition. He became more and more addicted to painkillers. One day, while working on Bewitched in 1968, he passed out, was taken to the hospital, and was unable to continue working. He decided to leave the show and the cast and crew were very supportive. This is went Sargent stepped in to play the role. Sadly, York stayed in the hospital was bedridden for over a year, and continued to take painkillers. York was finally able to quit painkillers by 1971 but couldn’t find work. His only roles in the 1980s were on Simon and Simon and Fantasy Island.
Unfortunately for York, his health problems were far from over. He was diagnosed with emphysema in 1986 after a lifetime of smoking. Around this time, he was reportedly broke and the bank foreclosed his home in West Covina. He moved to Michigan with his wife where he spent his final years until he died in 1992 at the age of 63. Before he died though, he aimed to help others in a similar situation and became an advocate for people experiencing homelessness.